Book Review: The invention of fire by Bruce Holsinger.

Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (April 21, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0062356453
ISBN-13: 978-006235645151LfoV5JOWL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

The appearance of this book portends ominous events, a grainy, fiery dust cover of a royal coat of arms. No gold embossing for the title, well done Harper Collins, and quality a paper and printing. Usual hardback rule of thumb applies to reading and there’s a helpful map of 14th century London in the front.

It’s good to see Holsinger has found a groove to write in. The main two sided storytelling elements, reminiscent of a TV crime series, that were present in his first novel, A Burnable Book, are still there. On one side information broker and real life poet John Gower narrates his way around London, trying to solve the mystery of the murder of 16 men, found in a privy pit by Medieval sewer workers, killed by a powerful new weapon, the handgonne. The other side of coin reveals the string ends of a puppet master, the props of a powerful hand, who are the keys to the whole mystery yet separated from Gower’s investigations by a trail of silent witnesses, who the poet must track down before they are snuffed out. These two alternate narratives deliberately shield the third key element that ties it all together, and is slowly revealed, piece by piece, as the book progresses.
Holsinger has written another deep, psychological thriller full of threat, menace, violence, mystery, misery and pain, with grime, dirt, dark humour, introspective tangent, intrigue and historical detail with a deeply flawed cast replete with shade and some moments of light, but very few truly noble or heroic figures. This is a dark almost nightmarish world, safe only to those who had been born to it. A dirt of your fingers short lived place, were nothing is guaranteed, not the sight your eyes were birthed with, nor the crown on a King’s head.


Book Review: Greyfriars Bobby and the One O’Clock Gun by George Robinson.

Paperback: 82 pages
Publisher: Xlibris (28 Mar. 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 148360151X
ISBN-13: 978-148360151961fVfjlqJjL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

If you are contemplating making a trip to Edinburgh then I think you should consider buying this little book. Greyfriars Bobby, the little Skye Terrier that became so legendary in the late 19th century, is a much more potent symbol of this great city than even the castle that dominates its skyline. For while the battlements rear over the city, creating the most powerful visual landmark to associate with, this little dog represents its heart and soul, and a working knowledge of his peculiar story is therefore a must if you are going to visit the Scottish Capitol.

George Robinson has collected a series of short vignettes that detail some of the most memorable Bobby stories, detailing his origins and cleverly discussing the myths about him, showing us the friends he made and the lives he touched until his death in 1872, and giving us a picture of the spirit of a city that I hope is as real today as it was then, as you will certainly understand if you get this book. Perhaps as you sit in one of the places marked on the map inside, sitting in the park below the castle waiting to hear the startling bang of the One O’clock gun, or at the end of a busy day in your hotel, you might realise as I did how much the culture and spirit of Edinburgh is contained in the trusting gaze of this remarkable little dog.¬†Along with this is an array of incidents that show 19th century life in Edinburgh, from the story of the one o’clock gun to military parades and other interesting things besides.

I don’t know of any city that can boast such a fine recommendation as one that which collectively adopted this homeless animal as part of its character and heritage, giving him one giant home in almost every household he met. I very much enjoyed this little book, with its nice period engravings and succinctly written stories, and I’m sure Scottish history and dog fans alike will enjoy it too.